Many of us watched Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket propel the electric car out in to space.
Amusingly, the car is being ‘driven’ by a dummy in a spacesuit named Starman. Additionally, the legend “DON’T PANIC” is plastered on the control panel.
Tesla Starman – the secrets
Eric Holthaus over at Grist Tweeted that you can just head over to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s HORIZONS web interface.
To view the details for yourself head on over and then click ‘change’ next to the target body. Now, type in ‘SpaceX’ and hit enter. Next, click ‘Generate ephemeris’.
You’ll find both the details about the Roadster, as well as its ephemeris. That’s its position in the sky (I had to check).
This is the same system that tracks all the other bodies in the Solar System, including satellites and stuff like Mars.
However, that rather official page also reveals a secret.
It turns out that, on the dash, there’s a Hot Wheels toy model with a mini-Starman inside.
The car is now in an orbit that takes it between .99 and 1.7 astronomical units, where one astronomical unit is approximately the distance between the Earth and the Sun. On average, Mars is 1.5 au from the Sun.